RFD’s first female firefighter retires after 25+ years

(ABC 6 News) – Rochester Firefighter Jean Mulholland retired this week after serving the citizens of Rochester for more than 25 years,.

Mulholland joined RFD on Aug. 5, 1996, becoming the first female firefighter to join the department. She was also a long-time member of the department’s Structural Collapse Team. Mulholland was the first female to join RFD in a profession that is predominantly male.

RFD was formed in 1866, and became a career department in 1915. All members prior to 1996 were men.

Five more women have joined RFD since Mulholland was hired, and there is a female candidate on the department’s current list for potential hires.

One of the six women hired by RFD over the years has promoted to the position of Motor Operator (driver), and another has promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, women make up less than 10% of fire departments nationwide. About 5% of RFD’s firefighter staffing is female. RFD continues to actively seek firefighters across all demographics.

RFD runs an annual high school program to help make local students aware of the opportunities in firefighting.

Male and female students from Rochester high schools and other local communities take part in online and hands-on training that allows them to achieve firefighter certification in Minnesota, which opens the door to joining departments after they graduate.

Eighteen female students have taken part in the program since it started in the 2019-20 school year.